COSATU welcomes the green paper announced by the Minister of Labour today, (13.02.96) for a new policy on Employment Standards Statute. Although this announcement is in line with the department of Labour's five year plan, it however marks a new beginning.

Few months ago NEDLAC and later parliament passed a new LRA which is a corner stone to any modern democracy which respects workers rights. Today the process of giving rights to workers has been given a new impetus in the long road to rid our country of the ugly past.

COSATU will study the green paper in the few coming weeks and make detailed considered comments. We however wish to make the following initial comments to the document.

1. "Flexibility"

There is a worrying trend of the use of the word flexibility in most parts of the green paper. We don't understand what this means, but we know this to be a word liked by business when they want to seek gaps to exploit vulnerable sections of workers. This word is once more used in the section dealing with working hours.

COSATU accepts the right of trade unions and employers to negotiate binding agreements outside the legislation. We however feel that there should be binding minimums as basics, with no agreement allowed to interfere with minimums.

2. Scope of Legislation

We are delighted at the inclusion of the workers previously not covered by the BCEA and Wage Act. This is an immense victory to COSATU, domestic, farm workers and the struggling masses. We are however sceptic about the power the Minister wants in order to exclude highly paid workers from the scope of the Employment Standard Statute.

3. Non-Standard Employment Relationship

COSATU is fully behind the inclusion of part time workers, workers employed by labour contractors and contract workers, to the fold of the law. The bosses have created islands of extreme exploitation within the South African labour market.

We are extremely excited at the proposed provisions to cover these vulnerable workers.

4. Working time

We are disappointed by the failure to move straight into a fourty hour week. We believe that the reduction of working hours will force the bosses to employ more workers thus create more jobs. The bosses can also be forced to invest in skills development of workers in order to increase their productive levels.

We demand that the hours of the day be distributed as follows:-

  • 8 hours for our working time
  • 8 hours for our leisure time
  • 8 hours for us to sleep

We shall pursue this long standing demand of COSATU in negotiations in NEDLAC.

5. Maternity and family responsibility

We welcome the move by the labour department to make bosses realise that workers are parents too!! The four months proposed by the green paper is however not sufficient. COSATU's living wage demand is for a six months paid maternity leave. The three paid days paternity leave is also not sufficient. We shall seek to increase both the months for maternity leave and the days for paternity leave in negotiations and struggles that lie ahead.

6. Child Labour

We welcome the provision in the green paper which seeks to limit the use of child labour. COSATU is against child labour altogether. We do not believe that we should even consider the exemptions proposed by the paper. We want a complete ban on child labour not only in the legislation but in the new constitution of South Africa.

7. Enforcement

We are delighted by the proposed measures proposed in the green paper to enforce provisions of the legislation. Employers should not be allowed to ignore the law in their goal to exploit workers. We shall be looking at these measures and where necessary propose tightening of these measures. We shall also demand heavy penalties for the defaulters.